Fast casual operator Chik’N made a point of seeking out smart frying technology when it first launched its fried chicken concept and the investment is paying dividends in terms of menu output, kitchen consistency and oil savings.
Some might argue that fried chicken operators are ten a penny on British high streets, but that’s certainly not held London-brand Chik’N back.
It is aiming to do things its own way following the successful launch of its first store and imminent opening of its second.
Having seen its sister brand Chick ‘n’ Sours gain success in the market, the owners behind the concept made it their mission to develop a menu targeting the top-end fast casual market when they originally opened their debut site on Baker Street.
With a pledge to offer the best ingredients around, including organic, free-range chicken from Somerset and fresh and seasonal vegetables, they realised from the outset that developing a standout menu would require an appropriate level of investment back-of-house.
As the company’s website proudly declares: “No pre-made burgers hanging around in chutes here. Your food is cooked, in British rapeseed oil, fresh to order as fast as humanly possible. It’s this, plus a whole lot of love, that takes our fried chicken to the next level.”
For development chef, Ash Mair, using the correct oil and latest frying technology is central to making the whole operation tick. Having had experience of working with Henny Penny frying equipment in previous roles, he researched the latest innovations from the brand to see how they would fit with the bespoke requirements at Chik’N.
“We knew we were looking for a more traditional open fryer for Chik’N, but equally wanted something that could deliver the quality and consistency expected by our customers,” he explains, adding that he was able to test the Henny Penny Evolution Elite range at UK supplier Jestic’s development kitchen in Paddock Wood, Kent, to see how it could benefit the business.
We knew we were looking for a more traditional open fryer, but equally wanted something that could deliver the quality and consistency expected by our customers”
As oil prices continue to rise and businesses make a conscious effort to do more to look after the environment, particularly when it comes to the disposal of waste oil, Mair and his team were keen to find a suitable solution for the restaurant.
“Right from the start, we wanted a way to re-use our waste cooking oil,” he says. “We found a solution whereby we store it onsite in a large tank before it’s collected and transported away to be turned into bio-fuel for trucks. There are only certain fryers that are able to operate with this sort of system, but thankfully Henny Penny was one of those. What’s more, they claim oil savings of up to 40% compared to other commercial fryers thanks to the technology incorporated and the unique design — having used them I’d say these savings are justified.”
Using a bank of four Evolution Elite fryers, his team can achieve the results they need even with minimal training.
“The fryers are able to deliver remarkable consistency across our menu — whether it’s the precision temperature control, the pre-programmable options or the smart monitoring that accurately measures the quantity of a product placed in the basket and adjusts the oil temperature and time to accommodate for it. This means we get a uniform finish, texture and taste whether we put one piece of chicken, or 12 pieces of chicken into the fry pot at the same time,” says Mair.
Chick’N, which is about to open a second site in Soho, also worked with Jestic to design a bespoke basket that suited the makeup of the product at Chik’N and sourced an Ayr King breading table and Irinox blast chillers from the company.
With its emphasis on quality and a consistent end-product, expect to see more Chick’N stores hatching in the future.
Automatic filtration takes the pressure off kitchen staff during peak periods
Friday and Saturday evenings are peak trading times for Chik’N, which makes it important for the chain to maintain output and minimise anything that could affect business.
The Henny Penny Evolution Elite range that it uses features an automatic filtration system, which after a set number of cook cycles for a particular product drops the oil through the filter, before returning hot, clean oil back to the fry pot within minutes.
Development chef, Ash Mair, says the filter system really helps it maintain service times during its busiest periods.
“No longer do we need to manually filter oil having waited for it to cool first as the Henny Penny fryers automatically do it for us. It means we don’t need to rely on one of our team to remember either, as it’s set to a particular number of cycles, depending which product is cooked in that fryer.
“The ease of use has helped us greatly with efficiency in the kitchen, allowing us to de-skill
our training to some extent and improve our output.”